The problem is that I don’t feel like I fit here in America. Too much of me is African and Central Asian. I love too laugh loudly and cry deeply and feel my feelings to the bone. I love to hold another woman’s hand and stroke her hair because she is my friend and I care deeply about her. I say what I think and ask questions I “shouldn’t” and I want to know everyone’s story.
A while back my husband told me about an assignment he gave his anthropology students to find someone who is different from themselves and ask them their life history. I was like – why is that an assignment? I do that all the time. But I guess most people don’t. My 19 year old daughter explained that kids of her generation don’t ask personal questions as much because there are too many hot-button topics out there. That makes me sad. I have a dear friend who thinks very differently than me about vaccines and politics and such but we talk easily about it and laugh at our differences. Friends like that are few and far between. Friends who want to hear my deep heart and tell me theirs are few and far between. It makes me feel kind of alone in this world, or at least in this country that I call my own.
Since my son died I have become even more aware of these differences. The people that have been most helpful to me are those who have been through deep waters and understand what grief feels like and are willing to talk about it. They also don’t fit because our culture tries so hard to sanitize grief and keep it at arms’ length. I get the feeling that for the rest I may make them mildly to moderately uncomfortable because I am an example that yes, bad things do happen to good people and no, God doesn’t always spare your children. As my husband so insightfully said to me, people choose their theologies based on what is most comforting to them. So if you haven’t known deep loss you believe that, if you have enough faith, anything can be healed because that gives you comfort that you will be spared. But if you have known deep loss, you think differently. My friends who have known sorrow understand intuitively that what I really want is just for them to share my deep grief and to remember my son and to agree with me that it shouldn’t have happened this way. I appreciate the way Kazakhs come running up to the house of mourning with wailing.
People who are willing to go to deep places and talk about the hard things are the ones who have brought life to me. Many have experienced tragedy and injustice as racial minorities and foreigners in this country. Others have walked with someone suffering mental or other illness, or have themselves walked that path. These friends do not try to pretend. They just feel with me. Jesus, the man of sorrows, asked his Father to take the cup away but He did not. So Jesus drank it saying, “not my will but Thine be done.” Job, having lost everything, said “though He slay me yet I will praise Him.” Jesus and Job are also my friends in suffering. But suffering here in the land of plenty can be a lonely venture. Grief is sanitized and fixed in one hour seminars and support groups. And this is the path my family and I walk, as do many others.
I don’t really have a nice, neat lesson to wrap up this blog post with. So I’m just going to let it stand as is. If you also don’t fit it, let me know. Maybe we can have coffee and share our stories.
One doesn’t need to have lived in other countries to feel alone. I often felt alone and sad as I was growing up. Perhaps due to the fact that my parents were immigrants, had an accent, and were German (and my early years were during WWII and after). As you mention, there are others today who feel alienated–minorities, immigrants, etc.
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Wish I was closer to have coffee and sit together. I’d love to have you stroke my hair and be real with me. As Mark and I age, we are realizing our own mortality and wanting to savor more moments. Thank you for sharing your heart, Kim! You are an amazing writer and friend!!
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Thanks, Tami. I wish you lived closer, too! ❤️